It would be difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the importance of “The Cosby Show,” the landmark family-friendly TV program that aired from the fall of 1984 to the spring of 1992.
Eight seasons, during which viewership was extraordinarily high, crossing all ethnic, age and cultural barriers. “The Cosby Show” was a common meeting place — for laughs, of course, but also for “warmth and comfort” because the show made you feel good.
Ratings, in fact, were so high it was joked that NBC was no longer an acronym for National Broadcasting Company; instead it now stood for “Nothing But Cosby.”
In a sense, in terms of majority acceptance of African Americans, “The Cosby Show,” much like Oprah Winfrey, helped paved the way for the election of the first Black president of the United States. Content took precedence over anything else, including race.
For that reason, the program has a place in the Civil Rights Movement. It was a milestone. Moreover, it is easy to believe that Dr. Martin Luther King would have been a regular viewer.
TV GUIDE said glowingly that “The Cosby Show” was “TV’s biggest hit in the 1980s and almost single-handedly revived the sitcom genre and NBC’s ratings fortunes.”
One of the most important aspects of “The Cosby Show” was that it showed a complete Black family — that is, with a father in the home — that was upper middle class with cohesiveness, commitment to education and pride in their racial history, among other attributes.
Granted, there were times when this family seemed just a little too “ideal,” but that is a small price to pay for what the long-running series represented in the greater scheme of things.
Clearly, “The Cosby Show” raised the bar, and that is why Bill Cosby has publicly decried some of the Black shows that came after it. They represented regression rather than additional forward movement.
“THE COSBY SHOW” has the distinction of being one of only three television shows that were No. 1 in the ratings, as determined by Nielsen Media Research, for five consecutive seasons. (The other two are “All in the Family” and “American Idol.”)
In addition, it is the third longest running comedy program with a predominantly Black cast.
This was Cosby’s fifth series, following “I Spy” (drama), “The Bill Cosby Show” (situation comedy), “The New Bill Cosby Show” (variety) and the animated “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.”
Although there were many serious moments and themes on “The Cosby Show” — times when laughter would have been inappropriate — the show would have been nothing without good writing and, of course, plenty of laughs.